Sunday, August 12, 2012

Aug 11 – To Skagway

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I set the date wrong on my computer so these post were being held until Sep 11. Oops.

Today we got blue sky, no wind for calm reflecting lakes and great scenery. The drive to Skagway is only 180 km but we stopped at just about every scenic viewpoint so it took us about 4 1/2 hours.


The first stop was called Emerald Lake. The deep green is from algae called diatoms. Their shells are calcium carbonate which line the bottom of the lake. The sun reflecting off of the shells give the water the green colour.


Jennie wanted to go see it up close but then you don’t get the reflection and the water just looks clear.



Next stop was the Carcross Dessert, the smallest dessert in the world. It is not really a dessert but sand left over from the bottom of a glacial lake that has formed some large dunes.



For some reason there is a couch out in the middle. You call also see some tiny people climbing the dune at the right.


Lots of ATV’s have been busy here.


Next stop was the town of Carcross, short for caribou crossing. Jennie needed another stamp at the visitor’s center. There was an interesting design on the end of this coffee shop.


The town had been trying to restore a sternwheeler that had been used in the area. Just before it was complete it caught fire and almost completely burned. All that was left was the metal and a bit of the bow.


They built this outline frame to display the remaining metal pieces such as the boiler and engines.


Just down the road was the Bove Island viewpoint. All the lakes and rivers have the green colour but it is not as deep as Emerald Lake. The guidebook said to climb the hill on the other side of the road for a better view over the trees. I raced up to catch the boat going across the lake.


We drove beside long thin Tutshi Lake for quiet a while.


Past an old mine.

This viewpoint had some great reflections in the still water.



We started climbing up to the White Pass. These bikers had a long haul ahead of them.

As we got higher the scenery got kind of strange. We have never seen anything like this before. There were small ponds and rivers everywhere and the ground became very rocky as in covered in boulders and gravel with short spiky trees.




Nearing the top of the pass.


At the top was a deep gorge.


Now we started the steep descent into Skagway along the side of the gorge.


You can see the slash of the highway middle left below.



You drop from 3100 feet to sea level in less than 11 miles. This part scares a lot of people from bringing their RVs to Skagway. I just put our RV in first gear and crawled down the hill, with the engine screaming, as slowly as I could, touching the brakes only when I really had to. There was much more traffic going up but I didn’t hold anybody up going down.



At some point we crossed over to the right side of the gorge and could see the could see the White Pass and Yukon Railway on the other side going into the other valley and then angling up the mountain on the far side.


We even saw a couple of the trains on their way up.

You know the grade is steep when every once in a while they have these escape ramps so that if your brakes fail you can run up the ramp which is covered in soft gravel to safely slow you down.


Our first view of Skagway off in the distance, still a long way down.


Once we got down we headed to our RV park. There are three in town for big RV’s and none have really great views except that one has about 6 sites that are in the paved parking lot right by the small boat launch at the harbour.


The rest of the campground is in the trees behind us.

Obviously these are not what I would call “campsites” but the view out the front window is pretty good.


We get a front row seat to the coming and going of the cruise ships. It being a weekend there are only two ships in port, the Island Princess and the Volendam.


On most weekdays there are 4 and sometimes 5 ships disgorging around 8000 passengers into this town of about 800 people.

After setting up we walked back into town and played cruise ship passenger. This is one of the most touristy towns we have been in, much like a Caribbean port. Wall to wall T shirt and gift shops. There are 60 jewelry shops alone.


For some reason most the pictures of downtown were out of focus so I will get some more later but to give you an idea how busy it gets this one gift/junk store had 8 checkouts.


The weather for tomorrow is not looking good so I am not sure what we will do but after that it is supposed to be at least partly sunny for a few days. There are some hikes to do and old places to investigate.

At our stop in Carcross we went into the railway station. The train from Skagway comes here and then people take buses back to Skagway. The lady at the desk convinced us that we should at least take the train up to the top of White Pass and back down, as the view are different than those from the highway (she says, we’ll see) so we are booked on the Monday afternoon train.

Another in a long line of days of amazing scenery.

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